Day 75: Returning to the Scene of the Crime


Today, I sent flowers to a woman I have never met. I wasn’t sure what to write on the card but hoped to God it would comfort her, if anything could.

And today would have been the 23rd birthday of a woman I will never meet. According to the article in the local newspaper, she died Thursday night.

Laura had been out to dinner with a friend. After leaving the restaurant, the car she was riding in was rear-ended by a drunk driver, sending it hurtling down an embankment. Her friend was taken to the hospital, but Laura was trapped in the wreckage. After finally being cut from the car, she was flown by helicopter to the hospital, where she later died.

As is the nature of the world today, Laura’s Facebook page was still up and running. She was a beautiful young woman — dark, thick hair, glowing smile. Innocent looking, almost childlike. Beloved by all, the paper went on to say. Her mother, distraught in a way that I won’t even try to imagine, said, “Instead of planning a birthday party, I am planning for a funeral.”

Her heart is broken, I know. I have two children of my own. It could have been my daughter who was hit — gone in an instant, leaving me stunned, blindsided. But when it comes to driving under the influence, I know our sons and daughters are far more likely to be the perpetrators. Almost all of us have been the perpetrators ourselves, but by luck or fate or sheer randomness, were able to somehow make it home. This time.

That’s why I was immediately drawn to the photo of Julie, the driver of the car that hit them, in the courtroom. She was wearing an orange prison jumpsuit and sitting in a wheelchair, still healing from the injuries she sustained in the accident. She was a bit older than Laura, with dark blonde hair drawn back in a loose bun. Her pale hands looked fragile, clasped in her lap, bound by silver bracelets, I thought, but when I looked closer, I could see they were handcuffs. Head bowed, eyes closed, she appeared to be turning away from the camera, but the pain written across her face was unmistakable. It was heart wrenching.

She is my daughter also. She is me.

I wanted to tell her that everything was going to be all right — to hold her hand while she sat alone before the judge.

“She should be in jail for life,” said Laura’s sister. There has to be someone to blame because someone else is dead.

The alleged drunk driver, the paper went on to say, had a long list of driving infractions. (No prior DUIs.) She had earlier drug convictions as well — marijuana possession and narcotics. Almost as an afterthought, the paper mentioned that she was married and had two children.

I knew that she was more than a list of her convictions.

I found her Facebook page, which showed a completely different life, from the outside. Her baby boy smiled up at the camera, played the piano. She has an older girl that she drives to school, makes cupcakes for, and helps with her homework. She loves her husband and misses him when he is gone. She takes in dogs and kittens, and grows basil in her garden. They have just bought a lovely two-story home, perfect on the outside, like so many of our homes. But here and there in her posts, real life seeped through. She mentions going out with friends and staying out too late … of trying to care for the children hungover.

She talked of missing her brother, and how he had died too young. I scrolled back a few years, trying to find him. And there he was … young, smiling, handsome … he’d been a standout student and then an engineering graduate. Julie called him her best friend. I moved forward through the posts, and with a shock, found what I did not want to. He had taken his own life.

His vibrant face beamed at me from the screen in contrast — so alive. One post later, and he was gone.

Maybe that’s when things began to unravel for Julie, or maybe that was just one more event in an already painful life. I know I never needed a reason to drink. On the other hand, any reason would do.

Much to the dismay of the victim’s relatives, Julie’s bond was set low because she was not seen as a flight risk. The court did take away her driver’s license, however. I wondered how her daughter would get to school.

I sent her a pink hydrangea in a planter so that she could put it on her porch or plant it in her garden. There were only a few lines of text allowed on the card, so I wrote:

There are hundreds of people who have walked in your shoes and have you in their prayers. Hang in there, Julie. Life will be good again. Remember, you never walk alone.

From a friend you’ve yet to meet.

I sent it with a prayer, and I hope she takes to heart the words of Laura herself, as told through her mother in the courtroom. “Laura would want me to forgive you.”



28 thoughts on “Day 75: Returning to the Scene of the Crime

    1. I realize it isn’t much, but I can’t imagine how sad she must feel right now. It’s such a tragedy. There is an outpouring of grief for the victim, like there should be, and then there is this woman who has to pick up the pieces of her life while facing a trial. I wish I could do more.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Oh my goodness, this made me cry. That could be me sitting there in the courtroom….my sons and husband at home not knowing how it got to that point, as they try to protect my insanity. That hurt and pain could be mine. I have driven so many times when I know I should’t and have luckily made it home with no one harmed. This is a tragedy and I feel for her and her family….we know that it was not intentional, but someone did die and that is tragic too. Just a very sad, sad, story. Thank you for sharing and thank you for having such a big heart and sending her the flower and note….I hope it gives her hope.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your incredible honesty. It helps me to admit that that could be me as well. I feel so helpless when I see something like this in the papers, and it happens all the time. It is a sad situation and I would love to see the alcohol industry sharing the blame. Why do they push shots on patrons? We went out to dinner this week and the server told us about all of the shot specials. It is frustrating!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is so heart-breaking. And heart-strengethening. If the heart is a muscle, it needs to break down in order to strengthen right? These situations are so hard. Sympathy for the victim, and hatred for the illness (not the afflicted) but hatred for the affliction. I talked with an old counsellor about this recently. If you’re fighting a war, you can hate the enemy. But what about when the enemy is addiciton, and the war is IN you. Who do you hate then? I think it’s all too complicated to answer directly. Are you on Facebook? I’d like to share this and connect better. Friend me if you are! (and if you’re comfortable–of course I understand if you’re not)


    1. I know exactly what you mean — and I hate that the enemy is still within. Just today, I actually thought (momentarily) about having a drink this evening. Even after posting that very sobering article! I am not “out” on Facebook, but I don’t check my page very often regardless. My email is the best route: Thank you, Mark!


  3. Just like you blog name you gave that lady her own little sober miracle at a time when I am sure she felt like a social outcast and a hated person. I salute you for really not just thinking about it but talking all the right steps to get it done. Thankfully but truthfully you could easily have given those flowers to me and I thank goodness that you are not. I will never know how close I was to being in her shoes. Bless you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Me too, Ginger. And I could still be. Your comment came at just the right time because I am struggling today to dismiss the thought of drinking. I LOVE your idea about the flowers. I have not heard from Jeannine (I left my email address), so I was thinking I might have offended her. I doubt that’s true, and I have accepted that I may never hear from her, and that’s OK. Your comment was a gift as well. ; )


  4. Wow…that made me cry. It is so so very sad. What you did for Jeannine was so beautiful. A person who made a mistake…a big one at that. I hope that she will own what she did and be able to move forward. Jeannine and Lacey could’ve been any of us. xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I wish I could do more. I don’t think there’s any network of support for people in this situation, although I hope there is. It does give you a helpless feeling.


  5. Wow! You are amazing and what you’ve done is a lesson for all of us. Any of us could be either one of those women. So much pain! It’s so hard traveling through this thing called “Life”. We all make mistakes and we are all the victim of other mistakes at times. If only we could always remember to be quicker to forgive than to judge.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You are so right about the forgiveness and not judging. And it’s so hard to accept that things happen that don’t make sense and cause so much pain. How hard would it be to stop drinking in circumstances like this???

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I was really moved by this post, and have thought about it for a couple of days. Society and law is so black and white, and the reality is that everything is grey. A bit of good, a bit of bad, maybe lucky, maybe not. A good decision, a stupid choice. It’s a game of dice really isn’t it. But what you did really was generous and beautiful and I am sure that it touched her heart. There may be lots of reasons why she hasn’t responded by now, so just know that what you did was good. Hope you feeling a bit better today.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I am feeling much better today, as is the nature of mood swings. ; ) Jeannine did write me back yesterday. Here is what she said:

      Dear Shawna,
      I want to thank you so much for the prayers and kind words and for the beautiful flowers that you sent. Thank you so much for reaching out to someone that you don’t even know. The kindness in your heart to do something like that means a lot to me and my family..I never imagined we would be in this much pain and sorrow again so soon after losing my brother, my best friend. Thank you again so much. Hydrangeas are one of my favorite flowers.

      I am so glad she found it comforting. I am going to write her now to see if there is anything else I can do. Maybe babysit? Who knows. Free falling into a sober life had a great post on this idea of judging people:


      1. I am really pleased that she replied, and that she saw how wonderful your gift was. It will be interesting for you to share her journey as well. God how awful to think that your carelessness caused such grief. I have been in her position so many times, I guess it is just luck that separates us. In philosophy it is called moral luck, basically why do we punish the outcome when the intention is the same in both people.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Exactly! It is moral luck. I didn’t know there was a term for it. It’s interesting to see even people in the sober community who admit to drinking and driving criticize someone who was unlucky enough to have this happen. It’s like when people say, “I’ve never gotten a DUI, so I wasn’t that bad…” when actually they could have gotten a dozen DUIs, had they been at the wrong place at the wrong time.
        I responded to Jeannine’s email and offered to help out in any way possible and at possibly go to lunch, but I also said that I understood if she has enough support right now and chooses not to respond to a total stranger. I don’t want to come off as stalker-ish. ; )

        Liked by 1 person

  8. You are a very kind, thoughtful and honest person. Jeanine could have been me, the morning after. Your compassion has touched me, and I really thank you for sharing this. Lily 🌷xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Lily! I shudder to think about the times I drove while drinking. I pray right now that it never happens again. I feel so grateful to have another chance to finally succeed at this game of “sobriety.” ; )


  9. This post is the epitome of grace and forgiveness. It is a true reflection of what could have been any of us. Thank you for the reminder to be mindful of walking in others’ shoes. Thank you for the reminder to show kindness and grace.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Secret Quitter! I am still a secret quitter myself. ; ) I was reading through my old journals and found an entry that I don’t remember (of course), where I was commiserating over a “near miss” while driving. Scary. It happened too many times for me to ever judge anyone else.


  10. I have gone back through your blog tonight to remind myself of why other people don’t drink also, this was off the back of your most recent post Day 200:Postcard.
    This is still one of the most memorable and kindest things I have read on the blogosphere, it still touches my heart that you did this for a stranger. Once again I have to commend you on reaching out at her time of need and extending such a beautiful kindness. I am so pleased she responded to you and I hope she looks at that hydrangea and remembers both the good and bad it represents. You are ‘a sober miracle-worker’

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was just thinking about her today. She closed down her Facebook page, as I imagine I would do as well. Thank you so much for the reminder — I am going to reach out to her again, even though she probably has enough on her mind. I am amazed to see that there are people just like her about every few months in our local paper. I feel so helpless reaching out after the fact. Then again, it makes me more determined NOT to be one of these people myself. It could have happened so easily …


    1. Thank you, sister!! I’ve been doing too much running around to read blogs and I miss it terribly. I am doing well, tackling my other health issues — laziness and a sugar addiction. ; )
      So glad you stopped by.

      Liked by 1 person

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